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Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, read by Frazer Douglas.

The international sensation.

Winner of the Orange Women's Prize for Fiction.

A Sunday Times and New York Times best seller.

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son, Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfil his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

©2011 Madeline Miller (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic reviews

"Captivating." (Donna Tartt)

"Sexy, dangerous, mystical." (Bettany Hughes)

"Ravishingly vivid." (Emma Donoghue)

What listeners say about The Song of Achilles

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Stunning, beautifully written epic

This book really blew me away. A story of love, adventure and loss. I read Circe first, and this is probably even better. The character development is exquisite, the plot is beautifully written and the familiar story is told from a surprising new angle.
(I usually do laundry/chores while I listen, but there were numerous occasions during this sorry when I just stood frozen to the spot listening - it’s so mesmerising!)

31 people found this helpful

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Loved it

This book was gifted to me and I honestly thought it was going to be just another gay coming of age story, but it was so much more, I wanted to pull the characters from the pages and make them real. This is now one of my top 5 and I would recommend to anyone!

18 people found this helpful

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A compelling story wonderfully narrated

Having read the Iliad, I knew what the ultimate outcome of this story would be. And yet I did not know the journey would be so beautiful, so tragic, so utterly compelling. This is such a wonderful retelling of a story that many of us will know; using original material combined with creativity to imagine what life would have been like for Patroclus. He is such an interesting character, his actions change the outcome of the war and yet in many ways, he is overlooked. Getting to read this story from his point of view was wonderful and my words aren't doing it justice. I thought the narration of this title was good, the characters had distinct voices and the emotion of the story came across very well. I spent the last hour sobbing, but I know I will listen to this again.

14 people found this helpful

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It’s beautiful, people.

I have listened to a LOT of audiobooks and rarely have I been as emotionally invested as I was with this. Apologies to all TFL customers who had to witness me crying with joy/pain/relief on the tube whilst listening to it.

I knew the myth beforehand, so knew some of what was coming, and was still utterly hooked and surprised. Huge congratulations to the author and narrator.

9 people found this helpful

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I thought I didn't care but I couldn't stop crying

I don't think I have ever read a book that was quite this hyped to me.

Anyway, this book is the current darling of booktube, bookstagram and booktok even though it's already 10 years old by now, which I think is quite remarkable. I feel like social media tends to focus of new releases, so to see a book endure felt like a good omen to me. Plus, this fit right into the Mythic square on book bingo, and the cover was so pretty in the store that I just had to get it.

A disclaimer: although I have recently read Mythos by Stephen Fry, my knowledge of Greek mythology is weak at best. I have a mostly superficial knowledge of the main myths from primary school books and I am fairly certain we discussed the broad strokes of the Odyssey in high school 20 years ago, but I have most definitely never read the Illiad. All I knew of Achilles before embarking into this book was the pop culture reference translated into a distant memory of him being the invincible warrior who died because someone kicked his heel? Yes, that definitely sounds about right... ¬¬

I expected to be swept up by this book, and find myself unable to put it down. Conversely, I had to force myself to pick it up again and again over the almost two months it took me to finish (I even tried it on audio, which just didn't work for me for whatever reason). But I decided I was going to force myself to finish it this weekend, even if I had to skim through the last 150 pages.

I don't know what happened, and I need to talk it through, so I apologize but this will be full of spoilers.

Let me tell you a little bit about this story: funnily enough, The Song Of Achilles tells the story of Patroclus - a very young prince who is not interested in fighting, who accidently kills a boy who is trying to bully him and is exiled by his father to Phthia. There, he is expected to train and join the army, but instead finds himself infatuated with Achilles, the demi-God who is Peleus' son, a boy so beautiful and perfect -- fated to be the best warrior of Greece, but who is gentle and smart, and plays the lyre like an angel.

Achilles takes a liking to young Patroclus and claims him for his companion, and when he is sent to learn from Chiron the centaur, Patroclus runs and follows him. We watch the 2 of them grow up and fall in love and I am sure it's all sweet and beautiful, I just couldn't find it in myself to care.

When Helen is kidnapped and taken to Troy and all Greek heroes called to action to rescue her and Thetis (Achilles' Goddess mother) hides her son in a foreign land and marries him off to a princess in secret, Patroclus searches until he finds him which I guess is again sweet, but this stop really lost me as a reader.

Apparently, the princess is pregnant with Achilles' child, but there is this thing where she convinces Patroclus to sleep with her and the only reason I could see for that is that she wasn't really pregnant and needed to be so that she could have a reason to claim the scheme with Thetis was true? But if that is the case, who is the father? I would understand the existence of this passage if it was Patroclus, because it'd make the ending even more bittersweet. But the child is then raised by Thetis under water, which I don't think it'd have been possible if he'd been human, so I don't understand why this was necessary. Maybe I missed the point altogether.

Regardless, Odysseus finds Achilles and Patroclus and carries them off to war. Achilles is aware of a prophecy that says he will not die while Hector (Troy's best warrior) lives, so he makes sure not to kill him and the war drags on for 10 years. Achilles fights and is a bit of an arse about it. Patroclus becomes a medic and is compassionate of the terrible fate of women in misogynistic Greece and tries to save as many as he can through Achilles' choice in "spoils of war". But they're still living a fairly happy life together, I guess.

The thing is, so much of this is about "pride" and "war" and I just can't relate. I think wars are stupid and I couldn't bring myself to care while soldiers revolted, and Gods got angered, and Achilles became a stubborn knobhead so worried about his own glory that he'd rather see everyone dead than to stop a massacre. So when Patroclus disguised himself as Achilles to try and lead the Phthian army to help and actually fought quite well before being killed by Hector, I still didn't care too much.

When Achilles realized Patroclus was dead and went all out on a revenge-filled murderous rage and killed Hector, bringing on his own demise, all I thought was: you brought this all on yourself.

You know what killed me? This book is entirely told by Patroclus, and once he died his spirit continues to narrate the story, as he is bound to walk the earth by where he died until his body is burnt and his ashes are set to the Earth in his name. And Achilles asks to have their ashes mingled and buried together because regardless of how much of an dick he was, he did love Patroclus with all his heart.

But this is where we re-enter Pyrrhus into the story. This is Achilles' (or Patroclus') son, who comes into the war, after being raised by Thetis. He is the worst character is this book who comes in the last minute just to make everything worse. He is all the arrogance of a soul-less God mingled with the entitlement of a rich little adolescent boy. And he basically says that it's too bad if his father's ashes are mingled with this nobody-slave's, but only Achilles' name shall be written in the monument they're erecting.

And this is heartbreaking. I'm tearing up again just writing this down. I think it's Patroclus' despair at this absolute erasure that really got to me. It destroyed me. Because Achilles is off to the underworld, and Patroclus, who really was the best of the Greeks, is doomed to wander Anatolia alone after all the Greeks have gone back home.

It is only after a long long time, long after Pyrrhus is long dead from being a douche, that Patroclus convinces Thetis, who always hated him, to write his name next to Achilles', so he can move on to the underworld.

So am I left with a conundrum when trying to rate this book. Because this was really hard work, and I didn't enjoy reading it for the most part. But I can't stop thinking about those last 20-30 pages and it's been quite a while since a book has gotten such a visceral reaction out of me. So while I wanted to give it 3 stars, I think I might have to raise it up.

Thank you for putting up with me and my rants :)

7 people found this helpful

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Beautiful!

One of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to. One of the best books I have ever read, and the audio almost beats the book.
The narrator draws you in, so you are almost in the book with the characters. The descriptions, the characters were just perfect. I would recommend this book, and re-listen over again.

6 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

I loved listening to Circe and I loved listening to this. Such a moving story and so interesting to hear all about the Greek mythology. I'm going to re-listen now and I urge you to listen too!

6 people found this helpful

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Sad to now leave Patroclus' world

Loved this so very much. I wasn't sure what to expect and loved Circe so had high hopes. Heartbreaking but a beautiful journey that I wish didn't end. The descriptive and romantic writing style draws you in.

The narration is perfect. The voice felt ideal for the role of Patroclus.

Only slight criticism is the enchantment was slightly hindered when other voices were used for different characters. Particularly those of women. It felt a little unnecessary and distracting. It also took me a while to become accustomed to the voice used for Achilles.

I'd be keen to read the actual novel myself and if I interpret it the same.

Thoroughly enjoyed, would recommend.

3 people found this helpful

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I loved it, amazing

I loved it, best thing I've ever read, the tragedy and romance are just😙👌🏼

3 people found this helpful

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loved it

Loved the narration, thought the narrator did very well with all the voices involved. Scared the wits out of me with his portrayal of Thetis. Beautiful story too and richly written, lovely to listen to.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 28-06-22

Best I've ever heard!!!

So glad I got this book recommendation from youtuber Stephanie Soo, such a great book that captivated my attention and kept me at the edge of my seat right till the end. Loved the narration as well, definitelymust read!!!!

1 person found this helpful

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  • TheScribe
  • 29-08-21

Gorgeous prose and strong storytelling

Narrator has such skill in weaving the story. Reccomended this highly story highly and I listened to the whole thing in 3 days.

1 person found this helpful

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  • I Leaver
  • 20-02-22

Miller is a marvel

An excellent follow up to Circe, Miller’s story telling creates rich characters that pull the listener in and her style is perfectly suited to this period of classical history and mythology.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 21-01-22

Beautiful Narration

Love Madeline Miller's writing style and the reader ( Frazer Doughlas ) nailed every characters intonations !!! would repear on the listen

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  • Madelein
  • 11-01-22

Beautiful

Oh the drama of the gods, the theatre of ancient Greece. I loved the every second.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-10-21

Book Tok was right

I need a year to emotionally recover but I loved it 😭😭 Frazer Douglas brought the story to life and it was perfect.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-10-21

Amazing! Loved every minute!

Absolutely worth listening to! It is well written and well read. Would definitely recommend it.